David Copperfield: Intro


david copperfield coverThe Personal History, Adventures, Experience, and Observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery. This is the original title of Charles Dickens’ eighth novel, published in serial form in the year 1850. Now sold as a 700-page book, it was originally released in 19 monthly one-shilling installments. This makes for a delightfully long story in which even the villains trigger a certain empathy.

Dickens himself called it his favorite among all his novels, and countless readers over the years have agreed; I myself found it to be moving, not only because there wasn’t a dull moment, but his word choice–as usual–took my breath away.

Based on Dickens’ own past, particularly the chapters which describe a troubled childhood, the story immerses you–as any good book should. Even if I had not enjoyed the story, I would have kept reading because of the style in which he wrote. His style is known to be vivid; he forms creative parallels to make readers feel emotions, even those of characters we don’t like.

Reading this book, I felt their anger, love, heartbreak, infatuation–and it took me a long time to finish, because I had the constant urge to stop and jot the paragraphs in my journal. Some scenes were so bold that I sensed I had lived them–they were part of my past–and I had to record them, borrowing words from one who was a master at using them.

As I wrote Dickens’ words, I couldn’t help contemplating them on a deep level, finding poetry between the lines–in the pauses–the things not said. They found new meaning as I took them apart from the rest of the book. I realized that, as a reader, there is little like the beauty of a paragraph: words, black ink, old or fresh, promising a tale, promising a description that our own minds wouldn’t have come up with.

I would like to share a few of the notes I made. In the next few days, I want to show anyone interested what I found beautiful and why I thought it so–not as complex analysis, but because I want to share. Perhaps you will find enjoyment in the passages. Perhaps they will encourage you to read the book, but it will be enough if they make you stop and ponder, as they did for me.

I do this because I hope to one day write something this powerful. I do this because I have deep love for words and the magic they create. I do it because I love Dickens’ work and wish he was not dead.

Most of all, I do it because words are beautiful. They ought to be appreciated. I believe they can uncover depths in us, timeless depths. Check back if you want to read my thoughts as I share them. I hope they will make you pause for one moment of your day.

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A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens


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Merry Christmas! I hope you’ve had a blessed day!

Every year at around this time, I read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. It is my favorite book, because Scrooge’s experiences with the Ghosts of Christmas make me reflect on my own life.

The link between his story and our lives might be difficult to admit. Scrooge was such an unpleasant man that the Ghost of Christmas Future showed him nobody would attend his funeral. Instead they would steal the curtains from his bed and the shirt off his dead body.

Of course, Ebenezer Scrooge is an extreme example. It’s also true that we can never make everybody like us. We can, however, admit our flaws and try to improve ourselves. It is difficult to do, so much so that many never try, putting themselves in danger of ending up like Scrooge.

It was greed that made him disagreeable, but are we blind to our own flaws?

I have many things about myself that need fixing, and so do you. It’s useful to ask on occasion what the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future would say if it were us they’d come to visit instead of poor old Scrooge. It’s easy enough to judge him, but the message is universal.

Books have the ability to help us grow and change through characters and their choices. A Christmas Carol is poignant, relevant, and can be read in one or two days. The short length does not lessen the impact of the story: if read well, it will make you think.

I’m not perfect and neither are you. In that matter, we can relate to Ebenezer Scrooge. We’re human and in constant need of improvement.

A Christmas Carol is timeless for its wit and its message of hope: no matter how old we are or what we’ve done, there’s time to start over–Scrooge did!

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling


Every couple of years, I find myself in the mood once more to read the Harry Potter series. The story never gets old; it’s earned itself a special place in my heart.

harry_potter_and_the_sorcerers_stoneI think people are still drawn to these books because they feel like home. When thousands of people gather to read a story, it creates a sense of belonging which doesn’t fade when we finish the series. I think that’s the reason why Harry Potter will never die.

These books lack the elaborate description to which I am normally drawn, but that is not a weakness. We must take into account factors such as the age of the targeted audience. It surprises me a little that I enjoyed it, being a person who prefers old books with long paragraphs, but I then realize there’s more to a good story than flowery writing. J.K. Rowling is a master at writing action that keeps us turning the page, and I appreciate that, by not over-describing, she gave us room to imagine.

As for the story, I don’t think much description is necessary, however here is a loose overview:

Ten-year-old Harry Potter lives a miserable life with his aunt, uncle and cousin, the Dursleys. This family take pride in being perfectly normal and respectable, unlike Harry, who has nothing in common with them at all. He is not normal; strange things happen when he feels threatened or upset. For example, one time Harry jumped onto the roof of his school, when all he’d wanted was to dive behind a trash can.

The worst of his mishaps comes to pass on his cousin Dudley’s birthday. During a trip to the zoo, Harry Potter finds he can talk to snakes. Then, when his cousin Dudley pushes him, Harry–in a flash of anger–causes the glass case to vanish, setting the python free. Though unable to explain how he did this, Harry is punished for it, locked in his cupboard under the stairs for days.

Just when he is convinced that he will never have any friends, a letter arrives in the mail for him. Uncle Vernon does not let him read it, though apparently he knows who it’s from, because it sends him into a panic. It doesn’t end there: soon dozens of letters begin to arrive, identical to the first. Then hundreds come pouring through the chimney and all the crevices along the windows. These letters can find Harry wherever he happens to be, whether under the stairs or at a hotel.

Driven mad by paranoia, Uncle Vernon moves his family to a desolate island. At last he is certain no one will be able to find them, but he is wrong. While on the island, the clock strikes midnight on Harry’s eleventh birthday–which, of course, the Dursleys haven’t celebrated–but he is about to receive the ultimate gift, that which loyal readers long to receive, even after we’ve grown old.

On his eleventh birthday, Harry Potter meets Hagrid, the gentle giant, who breaks into that island shack and hands him a letter like those Uncle Vernon had been hiding. In the letter, Harry Potter discovers that he is a wizard, a famous one at that. Most of all, he discovers that he has a home away from these unkind people, a place where he will belong.

Though we readers will never receive our letters from Hogwarts, dedicated fans will always feel like witches and wizards. This is the belonging: we might have nothing else in common, but our love for Harry’s story will bring us together for a very long time, perhaps for life.

Have you read the Harry Potter books? What House were you Sorted in? I am a Ravenclaw!

The Belly of Paris by Emile Zola


The Belly of Paris is a unique, fast-paced novel about justice, revolution, and hunger. It is the third book in a 20-part series titled Les Rougon-Macqyart. The series examines two branches of a family: the respectable (legitimate) side, and the disreputable (illegitimate.)

The third installment follows Florent Quenu, a French convict who escaped exile in French Guiana after six years of imprisonment due to a false accusation. The novel opens with a scene after his return to Paris; in the scene, his unconscious body is found on a road by a merchant on her way to a marketplace called Les Halles.

61bziDAYLCL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_At once we feel pity for this man who is broken and lost in the world. He spends a great deal of time reminiscing on his horrific escape and the journey back home. Only when he acquires a job and independence does he find his personality, and in it we see how anger has blackened his heart. He wants to revolt against the government.

Quoting a paragraph from the novel, Florent is convinced that “it was his calling to avenge his thinness against this city that had grown fat while those who defended justice starved in exile, he was a self-appointed avenger, and he dreamed of rising up, right in Les Halles, and crushing this regime of drunks and gluttons.”

To understand Florent’s political motives, it is necessary to know about the author. Emile Zola was a major figure in the political liberalization of France. His views led him to become a controversial man, especially after the publication of his political article, J’acusse. The article called for exoneration of the falsely accused army officer Alfred Dreyfus. Following the backlash, Zola was persecuted for libel; he was forced to escape to England to avoid imprisonment.

The oddest thing about The Belly of Paris is its description. Zola can make the gloomiest scenes comical with his descriptions of food. Vegetables, cheese, beef–all are used to set the mood for good times and bad. What a character eats is a major element in describing their personalities–class and wealth are shown by whether they eat fresh sausage and cheese for dinner, or are forced to beg for leftovers.

The beautiful fruits were on display, delicately arranged with the roundness of their cheeks, half-hidden in the baskets like faces of beautiful children, partly concealed by leaves. The peaches were especially beautiful, peaches from Montreuil with clear, soft skin like northern girls’ and yellow sunburned peaches from the Midi, tanned like Provençal women. The apricots lying in moss had the amber glow of sunset shining on dark-haired girls.

Zola wanted to write a novel where the city of Paris herself was a character; in this book, he did a fantastic job. With poignant characters and backstories, he plays with readers’ emotions, blurring the line between right and wrong. One day I hope to read all twenty books and see the character of Paris as seen by one of the boldest authors of his time.

Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust


kruse_swanns_wayOccasionally we find books so beautifully written that it seems the style, not the plot, keeps us turning pages.

Though translated from its original French, Swann’s Way did not lose its beauty in the process: every sentence reads like a verse from an old, nostalgic poem. As an example:

Meanwhile the scenery of his dream-stage scattered in dust, he opened his eyes, heard for the last time the boom of a wave in the sea, grown very distant. He touched his cheek. It was dry. And yet he could feel the sting of the cold spray, and the taste of salt on his lips.

That’s not to say the plot was dull–I only mean that I was entranced by the scenes, described in such a way that they drifted before me like dreams. Of the plot, I can say it’s unique in its depth, two points of view cleverly blended.

The two points of view seem as though they shouldn’t have anything in common. In Swann’s Way, the first scenes focus on young Marcel, loosely based on the author himself. This fact adds another layer of mystery. We want to get to know the author, and we wonder what traits he shared with his characters.

Marcel, the character, opens the novel with flashbacks to powerful moments in his childhood. It’s a sad, anxiety-ridden childhood; his fears plague him to a point where he cannot sleep if his mother doesn’t go upstairs to give him a kiss good-night. These kisses become ritual, seldom broken except for when the wealthy Charles Swann comes to visit.

Swann is the second main character. He is a wealthy stockbroker, friends with many important figures in Parisian society, and also controversial because of his marriage to a woman named Odette. Their courtship is a mark on his name forever, a favorite topic of Marcel’s grandparents to discuss when he is not around. His passages in the novel follow that tumultuous time.

We see his admiration for Odette become an obsession, then morph into anguish when she doesn’t reciprocate his love. When Odette distances herself from Swann, he begins to hate her as much as he wants her. Though he once thought her beautiful, he now loathes even her appearance. He fantasizes of a life without her, yet sends friends to stalk her and report her daily activities.

This jealousy is a trap for him as well as for Odette. This is where the story ripples like a reflection on water: as a reader, I didn’t like Charles Swann, but couldn’t bring myself to hate him. I knew he would never be happy, and I read many scenes with a grimace.

Swann and Odette eventually marry and have a daughter named Gilberte. Young Marcel falls for Gilberte in a manner similar to Swann’s obsession with Odette; it is here that their two stories become linked in an intriguing parallel.

Proust wrote this book in a way that he managed to manipulate time, much in the way painters mix color blends that tell stories; if we allow ourselves to soak in the sentences, we feel each emotion until the end.

This book may not be for everyone, because it is a rather heavy read, and a long one. It requires great patience–I found that speed-reading would not do, and forced myself to slow down so I could taste each word. If we miss one phrase, the enchantment does not grip us.

It is ideal for readers who like heavier stories, and those who soak in poetic writing. Swann’s Way will leave marks with the characters’ strong conflicts; there are certain scenes in which my heart will lurk forever.

I know I will read this book again one day.

If you would like to read Swann’s Way, it’s available for download here at Gutenberg! Have you already read the book? What are your thoughts on it?

The Late Serenade Announcement


My second book, Serenade, has been available on Kindle for a few weeks now, but I didn’t want to write a blog post about it until you could get it on paperback. Now it’s all set up (get your paper copy here!) and I can finally gush about it.

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This is the second book following Allie’s adventures–the second of many books, because I’m not good at coming up with endings. I keep coming up with subplots and different ways to expand on world-building. I’ve been working on Serenade all year; it’s so strange to be holding it as a paper book! It finally feels real.

I had a lot of help from friends and family (hi, Mom!!) Special thanks go to Kristia S. for the lovely cover. Thanks also to my editors, Alex and Sarah. Then there are all the beta readers–some of which even read the book twice–including Syd, Rae, Faith, Phil, Alex (she has been such a great help!) Jennifer and Chris. Briana has also been a great encouragement. I wasn’t able to mention everyone in this blog post, but know I could not have done this alone. You’ve all been very patient with me; I am blessed to have so much support for this journey.

Here’s what the story is about:

Months after her narrow escape from death, Allie feels incomplete. She is weakened by Dissonance, a music-based illness which drains her strength every day; she struggles to feel useful, living a quiet life with her family in their Florida apartment.

As faery tales begin to fall, an unexpected death drives them back to Serenade, a kingdom where many see them as traitors. Facing new responsibilities, Allie must prove she has the strength to be a Muse and finally beat her Dissonance for good.

Read it on your Kindle by purchasing it here! And remember, each time you buy a book, you help me fund my coffee obsession. :D I’m already working on book three! (And a couple more.)

I hope you’ve had a good year, and when you read Serenade, I hope you enjoy it!

-Mariella

On Finishing Serenade & Old Clichés


There is a curious emptiness many writers feel when a project is finally done. I’ve finished editing Serenade, and find myself searching for ways to pass the time—plotting a new novel, or working on my TBR pile.

It’s tempting to keep searching the document for things to edit, but I’ve already made all the changes suggested by my beta readers. I checked for typos and inconsistencies; I mended paragraphs and smoothed out sentences. Any changes I could make now would be for the sake of doing something to the manuscript, which wouldn’t necessarily help it. I have to sit back now and work on something else, because Serenade is as close to ready as it’ll ever be.

There is a point where you know you’ve done all you can for a book, that it can stand on its own, and it’s almost time for a book release. This is an exciting feeling, for sure, but it also brings the emptiness—the sensation that you need to be working on something, writing something. There’s almost a feeling of betrayal—why isn’t your manuscript around to help you anymore?

It’s attachment, it’s habit, and it can be bittersweet. It’s also liberating, because now I can start plotting my next novel.

Thank you for providing support on this journey as I went through the beta rounds, made edits, and even procrastinated work! I don’t know exactly when the book will be out. It’ll probably be in October, because that’s my favorite month (Halloween!)

Also—Serenade is shorter than Dissonance by a couple of chapters, and I feel perfectly okay with that. A struggle I had throughout the writing process was fear of not making it the length I wanted. I read the manuscript this morning, though, and feel that it said what it needed to. It’s not worse because of those couple thousand missing words. Quality over quantity—it’s an old cliché, but a lesson I learned, and a piece of advice I will keep with me whenever I am working on a new book.

How do you deal with the emptiness after you finish writing a project? Are there specific ways in which you pass the free time?

The Hopelessness of a Firefly


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Crickets sang in chorus, a merry song dancing around like freedom. Fireflies drifted from bush to bush, their light bringing sparkle to the hollow. They couldn’t outshine the moon, a familiar face in the sky; some believed it saw and knew all.

In the light of the moon, I caught a firefly in a my glass jar, closing the lid before it could get away. Sometimes I doubted folklore’s claim that the moon saw everything. If it could see everything, it was cruel—or powerless to change fate.

After all, it was silent as it watched me trap a firefly in my jar. It could not, or would not do a thing to keep me from stealing the small creature’s freedom. I knew it would not save me from the small things that bothered me throughout the day.

I made my way home in silence, my back turned to the moon. It was not all-knowing or powerful, just another light by which I could see the injustice of the world. Just to be safe, I kept a firefly with me every night.

There should always be light near.

Book Review: The Faerie Ring by Kiki Hamilton


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The Faerie Ring follows the story of a pickpocket named Tiki. She lives with several other homeless children in Victorian London; together they make a family, looking out for each other when things get rough.

When the youngest child, Clara, falls ill with consumption, they find themselves facing a huge hospital bill. It’s more than they could steal in the time given them. Just when it seems hopeless, Tiki finds a bizarre stroke of luck and seizes it.

She manages to steal one of the queen’s rings. The reward for it is enough to pay for Clara’s medical bills, and even to make sure her little family has a decent home. The challenge is finding a way to trade it in without being caught and arrested.

But it won’t be simple. The ring is not just a bit of jewelry; it represents a truce made long ago between the Faerie court and English royalty. Some faeries will do anything to destroy the ring and what it represents, putting Tiki and her family in danger.

Even though I liked this book, it needed work. The writing could have been tightened up. If not for the several errors I spotted while reading, it would have been one of my favorite faerie stories.

I enjoyed the setting, but I wish the author had elaborated more. There wasn’t much detail for me to explore the streets of London, which sometimes made the story feel flat and a little too straightforward.

Despite it all, The Faerie Ring was a fun read. From the beginning, I wanted Tiki to be successful so she could keep her little family together. I’m going to give the next book a try soon.

Poem: Old Words


old words

old words
on crisp paper,

new words
in my racing mind…

ideas vanishing
like vapor,

foreign colors –
make me blind…

love is written
with four letters

symbols – stare
until they’re vague;

humans chasing it,
like beggars

fail to find it,
die of rage –

for old words
on crisp paper

undying love
can’t always make;

ideas vanishing
like vapor

all sorts of
illusions, fake –

love is spelled
in sets of four

but humans break
it into two.

we shouldn’t trap
it anymore,

we should make
way for new.

your old words
on crisp paper

if bent enough
eventually break;

ideas vanishing
like vapor

after your
illusions take.